Implementing the Role of Adults in our Communities

How do we ensure that our children stay on the right path? What are the factors that contribute to their success?

Much of the research in the field of education today shows the importance of three interconnected areas of influence on children – families, schools and communities. When these three areas function well, children thrive.

While it may be challenging to have a direct impact on how schools function, adults have a sizeable capacity to impact their families and, in turn, their communities.

A recent study, “Who’s Minding the Neighbourhood? The role of adult capacity in keeping young people on a path to graduation,” demonstrated that the higher the ratio of adults to youths in a community, the lower the school drop-out rate. When there are many adults living in a community relative to youths, it is possible for them to transmit the morals, values and guidelines for youth to succeed academically.

According to the study, adults in a community can best support the success of young people in the following ways:

“Emotional (the bonds between an adult and a young person), instrumental (tangible supports such as money, food, shelter), informational (navigational tools), and appraisal supports (setting expectations for youth and holding the youth to those expectations).”

How can we apply these findings?

Emotional – (the bonds between an adult and a young person)

The importance of creating a solid bond between a parent and child cannot be underestimated. One way to achieve this is through one-on-one time with each child.

According to Dr. Kyle Pruett, Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, a child should have time alone with each parent, to form close bonds with both. During alone time, the special nuances that are unique to a relationship – such as nicknames, jokes and terms of endearment – are more likely to form than in a group situation. Also, since “alone time” can often be associated with “discipline time”, it is helpful for kids to know that their parent wants to spend time alone with them during good times as well.

In addition to spending time alone with each child, it is critical for children to receive attuned caregiving from birth.

A 2014 study researched 243 born into poverty and uncovered that children whose needs were met in a sensitive, reliable way between birth and three years of age had healthier relationships and were more successful academically in their 30s.

Instrumental – (tangible supports such as money, food, shelter)

In this particular area, we turn our focus to the community. Are we as a community ensuring that low-income families have the resources to provide for the basic needs of their family? Some areas could include:

  • Gemachs
  • Food Banks
  • Charities
  • School tuition support

Informational – (navigational tools)

What lesson should we be imparting to our children to help them navigate the challenges of life? Some areas could include:

  • How to deal with failure
  • How to be independent
  • How to handle relationships
  • How to be proactive
  • How to handle stress

Appraisal supports – (setting expectations for youth and holding the youth to those expectations

While putting too much pressure on our children can be counterproductive, setting realistic expectations for them can give them something to reach toward.

Neal Halfon, a professor at UCLA, analyzed the results of a national survey of 6,600 children born in 2001, and found that parental expectations had a major effect on their children’s achievement.

According to Halfon, “parents who saw college in their child’s future seemed to manage their child toward that goal irrespective of their income and other assets.”

Thus, the parents’ beliefs acted as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Adults have a major impact

In closing, the mere ratio of adults to youths in a community can impact the academic success of our young people. We must remember and feel encouraged by all of the ways we can impact our own children, as well as those who are in our community.